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Making Strides Against Breast Cancer

Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, is 50th ACS-funded researcher to earn Nobel Prize

Dr. Bertozzi is first woman ACS has funded to win science’s top honor.

Carolyn Bertozzi, PhD, was one of three scientists to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry on Wednesday for the development of click chemistry and bio-orthoganal chemistry, work that has “led to a revolution in how chemists think about linking molecules together,” the Nobel committee said. These creative new concepts and highly efficient chemical reactions have had a strong impact on the fields of chemistry and drug development. (She is pictured above celebrating the announcement in a @NobelPrize Twitter post.)

Dr. Bertozzi received several American Cancer Society grants early in her career and has mentored several ACS postdoctoral fellows. Her award brings the total number of Nobel Laureates ACS has funded to 50 – and Dr. Bertozzi becomes the first woman that ACS has funded to earn that honor. (She is pictured at right on the Stanford University website.)

“Click chemistry enables technology that can be used in the design of precision cancer therapeutics. It is on this basis that ACS was proud to support Dr. Bertozzi’s pioneering research through multiple, independent cancer research grants,” said Karen Knudsen, MBA, PhD, CEO of the American Cancer Society said in an announcement this week. “She also now bears the honor of being the 50th Nobel laureate to have been funded by the American Cancer Society, and the first woman! This is an exciting milestone for both cancer research and human health.”

“The Society’s support of her now Nobel Prize-winning work in chemistry began in 1993 and she has mentored eight ACS-funded researchers since 2001; four who are female,” said William Dahut, M.D., chief scientific officer for the American Cancer Society. “This is a great day for women in research and Dr. Bertozzi is paving the way for what we hope are many more female researchers.”

“This is a fantastic prize to a fantastic discovery,” Professor Olof Ramström, member of the Nobel Committee for chemistry, said after the announcement today. This team has learned that molecules “click together very simply and very straightforwardly, essentially the same way as you build LEGO. … This discovery can be used for almost everything.”

Other winners alongside Dr. Bertozzi included Dr. Morten Meldal and Dr. K. Barry Sharpless. Dr. Sharpless first coined the concept of click chemistry – a form of simple and reliable chemistry, where reactions occur quickly and unwanted products are avoided.

Dr. Bertozzi “took click chemistry to the next level,” the Nobel Committee said. She developed click reactions that work inside living organisms. Her reactions take place without disrupting the normal chemistry of the cell. These reactions are now used globally to explore cells and track biological processes. Using this novel approach, researchers have improved the targeting of cancer pharmaceuticals, which are now being tested in clinical trials.

Dr. Bertozzi holds several positions at Stanford University. She is the Baker Family Director of Stanford ChEM-H, Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Professor in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and professor, by courtesy, of chemical and systems biology and of radiology. Her research focuses on cell surface sugars important to human health and disease, including cancer.